Buried in this 67 acre memorial park are the pioneers, innovators, politicians, revolutionaries, carnival workers and circus freaks that make up the story of Los Angeles. Evergreen is where Los Angeles history rests in peace.
Welcome to the End
Evergreen was the only cemetery that allowed african-americans to be buried in LA. Chinese were excluded but Japanese were allowed and have quite a large presence within the cemetery.
Debbie party of one.
Isaac Lankershim is known as a “pioneer,” city builder and land baron who profited from the break up of the rancho land grant system. He and his son-in-law, Isaac Newton Van Nuys, developed the San Fernando Valley. Both a street and a town were named for Lankershim; the town is now known as North Hollywood. Bonus grave – Arthur Gilmore lays beside Lankershim/Van Nuys. Gilmore owned a large ranch in mid-city and created the Farmer Market along with many other attractions.
Walking amongst the graves of over 300,000 souls.
A large Armenian population rests at Evergreen.
Ladies Auxiliary Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association Monument represents the women circus freaks who entertained the masses. Over 400 carnival workers and performers are buried here. The area is referred to as “Showmen’s Rest.”
The Pacific Coast Showmen Association Monument marks space dedicated to indigent men and women entertainers including circus performers and carnival workers. This section of the cemetery was set aside in 1922 and had annual memorial services in December to individuals buried there, including one in which prayers were led by Aimee Semple McPherson in 1935.
Not much is known about Dainty Dotty. Known for her role as the Fat Lady in the Ringling Bros circus in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, she married tattoo artist Owen Jensen, who taught her the art of tattooing. They eventually opened a successful tattoo supply business. It’s believed she was the largest female tattoo artist ever, weighing in at around 600 pounds. Jensen is also said to have tattooed Dotty, though there are no photos of her tattoos. She died of a heart attack in 1952.
The extension of the MTA Gold Line in 2005 brought Evergreen’s ugly past of racial discrimination into the spotlight. A crew digging under a large 1950s retaining wall that bordered the potter’s field portion of the cemetery unearthed the remains of more than 100 people, most of them Asian males. Jade bracelets, rice bowls, opium pipes, and a few gravestones were also found. It seems that after the Chinese stopped their burials, the cemetery slowly erased almost all signs that the Chinese had ever been there at all. The remains were reburied with honor at Evergreen, and a Memorial Wall was erected in 2010 next to the restored 1888 ceremonial shrine.
Created by the Chinese community in 1888, the shrine was designated in 1990 as a 19th Century Los Angeles Chinese Cemetery Shrine Historic-Cultural Monument No. 486 and underwent a two-phase renovation project from 1993 to 1997. With a central altar and two kilns surrounded by an iron wrought gate, the shrine serves as the setting for the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California’s annual Ching Ming to honor ancestors, which involves a grave cleaning.
In front of the Evergreen Cemetery receiving vault/Chapel built by the architects Declez and Gilbert in 1882.
Born into bondage on August 15, 1818, Bridget “Biddy” Mason lived in Hancock, Georgia during the height of slavery. She was torn from her enslaved mother and sold to a slave owner, John Smithson, who traveled with her to Mississippi in 1838 in search of better cropland. She was soon thrust into the backbreaking existence of planting and picking cotton beneath the sweltering Southern sun. Legally, slaves could not learn to read or write so Biddy never acquired such literacy skills. However, slave women taught her nursing, midwifery and livestock care. She learned the natural healing traditions slaves adapted from Africa, the Caribbean, and Native American culture. In 1844, her master gave Biddy away as a wedding gift to Robert and Rebecca Smith who desired Biddy’s unique set of skills. By 1838 Biddy’s daughter Ellen was born, followed by Ann in 1844 and Harriet in 1847. The father of Biddy’s children remains an historical mystery. In 1848, the Smiths uprooted Biddy and her children and traveled from Mississippi to Iowa and then to Utah. The Smiths were Mormons fleeing religious persecution and seeking a new beginning. They traveled over 2,000 miles by wagon train with Biddy taking on much of the brunt work, walking on foot steering cattle, tending livestock and feeding the party of 56 whites and 34 slaves, including Biddy’s children. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 changed the course of Biddy’s life. She entered the state in 1851 with the Smiths, who sought better fortune in the West. In time, Biddy challenged her legal status as a slave in California. As California entered the Union as a free state, Judge Benjamin Hayes declared Biddy “free forever” in 1856. The judge discovered Smith’s plan to flee into Texas where slavery was legal. Upon acquiring her freedom, Biddy took on the full name of Bridget “Biddy” Mason.